There are sculptures and art throughout Europe and in some other countries depicting Black "Madonnas," see Europe Road Ways Black Madonnas. This painting shows no baby, and has other symbolism so could be another character entirely, perhaps. There also is another painting of a known Black Madonna there, and having two would be unusual?
If this is not a "Madonna," could she be Sara-la-Kali, as discussed here; or - this is an update 12/2008 - perhaps a derivation from the Salome story, the woman healer from the hills in the apocryphal Infancy Gospel of James, see Martin Luther's Stove, James' Christmas Prequel, Infancy Gospel of James.
Scroll to Act IV, Scene 4 at that site, laying out the gospel in pageant and speaking part form, for Salome's participation at the time of the birth of Jesus: she was the first healed by the infant, the first to recognize him, the first worshipper. Is she also the Salome present (according to Mark) at the crucifixion, and the companion to Mary and the Mary's in other accounts. Is this the later-identified Sara la Kali. Some things are never to be made absolutely clear. Speculation is good.
"Madonna" is a contraction of the Italian "ma donna" or "my lady" but that term is connected with Mary. See as a good start for any research, the Wikis, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Madonna; and http://www.thefreedictionary.com/Madonna. And Mary as Madonna - what if there is no baby. Is that always going to be a "Madonna?"
We believed this one to be another Black Madonna, but had no guidance, so we examined the horn or crescent below. Then we noticed the symbols around the frame - do they refer to the subject, or the subject's occupation serving that person (MR as Maria Regina?)
The role of a servant figure is not unusual in connection with a saint, and the suggestion is also in the modern film, "The Secret Life of Bees," see The Fodder Site, Mixed Origins, Clues to Religions, Cultures.
So: We are now tracking if the black "madonnas" with special symbols, and without babies, are really another saint (or, some say, not sainted but another person not Saint Sara), Sara the Black, and not Mary (the madonna) at all. Sara the Black, is known as patron of the Gypsies, known also as Sara-la-Kali, and with many legends from France and elsewhere about here. Do your own "images" search for Sara-la-Kali, and Black Madonnas. See the book, Gypsies, The Outsiders, by Peter Godwin, National Geographic April 2001 at p.72 ff (here is the cite from our search through a local library: http://go.galegroup.com/ps/retrieve.do?sgHitCountType=None&sort=RELEVANCE&inPS=true&prodId=GPS&userGroupName=22529&tabID=T003&searchId=R1&resultListType=RESULT_LIST&contentSegment=&searchType=BasicSearchForm¤tPosition=4&contentSet=GALE%7CA73661451&&docId=GALE|A73661451&docType=GALE&role=ITOF)
The Church has a Saint Sara, but they may not be the same.The church often appropriated a name of a non-Catholic, into the works of a Catholic, and made a saint. Either way, the veneration in some places makes her a Person of Interest, and too long unsung by the rest of us.
Parallel question: How about the Black Madonna of Guadalupe, Spain? We were not allowed to take a picture, but on second thought, was that really a madonna? No baby. Do an images search for her.
1. Identity questions. This "Madonna" in Gdansk holds no child. There is unusual symbolism in this one, the crescent beneath,. Could this be (despite other indications surrounding in the ironwork symbols that suggest Mary Regina), Sara the Black, patron of Gypsies. See beginning thoughts at Gypsies, Roma, Black Madonna or Sara the Black.
The crescent. Anyone can put symbols and signs around to direct people's thinking one way or another, and it looks like traditional Christian Mary Regina symbols are all around so that is what we think - but look at that crescent - Mithra's horns? www.geocities.com/~Patrin/stsm01.htm. And the sunburst, traditional now for depicting saints, but with origins in Persia, and probably elsewhere, this site noting that Mithra was the name in Persia for the sun god. http://www.thedyinggod.com/chaldeanmagi/sources/lactantius.html.
Or is the crescent the two-horned moon, also with ancient Persian connections, see http://www.thedyinggod.com/chaldeanmagi/sources/lactantius.html.
Christian roots in Mithraism - Mithraism was the most widespread religion in Europe before Christianity, says this site, at ://aramis.obspm.fr/~heydari/divers/marianne-eng.html. It is arguably the forerunner of Christian phraseology and even dogma, see all the parallels (even Mithra as the "Light of the World," Last Supper event, sacrifice, baptism, symbols on the pontifical throne at St. Peter's and other borrowings) at ://www.innvista.com/culture/religion/deities/mithra.htm.
Find more at Bogomilia: Mithraism. These are not sites for you if you do not like exploring and finding connections between religious practices as cultures take over one another. If you do like musings, as in regular people looking things up, go to http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Gazetteer/Periods/Roman/Topics/Religion/Mithraism/David_Fingrut**.html
Mithra origins - India. Mithraism originated thousands of years ago, India area. This looks like a reinforcement to Gypsy beliefs and customs, as Gypsies migrated from India in the past. In the Roman Empire, one of the centers for Mithraism was at Ostia, the old port of Rome.
Mithra's horns. Mithra overcame the primordial bull - thus the horns. Are those Mithra's horns here? Skip the later labels around the work here, because those are like overkill - too much effort to persuade us of something. There must be an issue of who she is. Focus on those horns.
Either way, Sara the Black or Sara-la-Kali, deserves recognition. Look at her history. Start at this site about her and a pilgrimage church in France called "Saintes Maries de la Mar," at http://www.geocities.com/~Patrin/stsm01.htm.
There, Roma come annually to revere someone who, according to various accounts, had a pivotal role in one way or another.
Stories, sites as we find them. Start at http://www.geocities.com/~Patrin/stsm01.htm. Or get an overview at Wikipedia, at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint_Sarah. Do not stop with Wiki, just start there for an orientation.
- Sara accompanied the Marys to the empty tomb of Jesus, then helped spread the word; or
- Sara served as a lady's maid to Mary, an Egyptian servant, or
- Sara came with Mary to France after the Crucifixion, or
- Sara helped save two other sainted ladies centuries later? Start at that site for all the stories.
- Sara came with the two Marys, as aunts of Jesus, to France?
The pilgrimage church: At Ile de la Camarque, France, see http://www.novareinna.com/romani/sarashrine.html.
Origins. Go back to http://www.geocities.com/~Patrin/stsm01.htm. That site associates her with Kali, in India.
Roman Catholic Saint Sara: Is this Sara is different from the Roman Catholic current Sainte Sara? Yes, says the site. But she is listed as Saint Sara. What was wrong with this one? Need to look further. It couldn't have been her skin.